It’s estimated that up to 33% of household food waste is due to the misunderstanding of date labels. What most people don’t understand is that date labels marked “Best Before” actually relate to food quality rather than food safety. Meaning, it will probably be tastier before the date shown, but likely still perfectly safe for a good while after that.
Yet so much food is wasted because we think it can’t be eaten after the date specified on the packaging. A doughnut for example, has a best before date because the manufacturer predicts that after that day it’ll have gone stale and dry – but it’s highly unlikely to make you ill.
What Labels Mean
When there is a “Use by” date sticker on a product however, this usually relates to safety so it should not generally be consumed after the specified date. Date labels that are marked “Sell by” and “Display Until” can be ignored entirely as these are for shop use only.
Storing your food items properly and taking note of the date labels on products when you purchase them will help to prevent waste. Remember that most non-perishable items can be eaten after the date printed on the packet as long as they are stored properly, including pasta, biscuits, dried fruit, vinegar and salt.
Planning your meals ahead of time will also help to make sure you use goods that have an upcoming “Use by” date. If you do not need to use them, then make sure to freeze them. Items that are placed in the freezer before their expiration date are safe to use at a later time.
Usually you can use common sense to check if a food item is still edible, simply by looking, smelling, touching and tasting. Eggs in particular are often still fine to use even weeks after their ‘Best Before’ or expiration date. There’s a simple test to check if they’re still safe to eat. Place an egg in a bowl of water, and if the egg sinks, it’s still safe to eat. If it floats, better give it a miss.